Electronics-Sniffing Dogs Used by Connecticut, Rhode Island Police

Dogs that undergo training in an innovative program led by Connecticut State Police prove their value.

by / July 10, 2014 0
Flo, one of the Labrador dogs trained by the Motion Pictures Association of America to sniff out DVDs, helped take down a movie pirating ring in Malaysia. AP/Miguel Villagran

The Connecticut State Police (CSP) have a new weapon in the fight against child pornography: electronics-sniffing dogs that find hidden data storage devices during searches.

The dogs, trained by CSP, are routinely sent out alongside the department’s other specialized canines, which include dogs trained for bomb, arson and narcotics investigations. And CSP's reputation is growing: Rhode Island State Police are now using one of the specially trained dogs, and nations from around the world are looking to Connecticut for training tips.

It’s amazing what their dogs can do, said Spokesperson Lt. J. Paul Vance. “We’re very proud of the canine training we provide here and the specialization that we’re able to develop," he said. "I am totally amazed at the success the animals have had, especially when we’re doing search warrants, both in private homes and commercial establishments, where they’re able to sniff out electronics that are beyond belief.”

One graduate of CSP’s electronics training program, named Thoreau, is now working with Rhode Island State Police. After 22 weeks of training, he can now sniff out electronic devices stashed at least “four layers deep.”

How the department trains its animals is to remain a secret, Vance said, but doing so has proved very useful in finding additional information during investigations.

“It came to fruition because there are many times when criminal investigations are under way, especially, say for example, child pornography, and people have exterior hard drives they want to hide away from public view," he said. "When we go in with a search warrant pursuant to that investigation, we want to find all the evidence and all the information. They’ve been successful in locating electronics, we’ve used them in narcotics investigations to obtain electronics that may have narcotics records on them. There are many other reasons why the animal would be a great addition to law enforcement.”

The CSP program was initiated several years ago, and as electronics become more prevalent in daily life, electronic-sniffing dogs could become more common.

In 2006, the Motion Picture Association of America piloted a similar training program, in which it trained two Labradors to sniff out DVDs. The MPAA sent the dogs, named Lucky and Flo, to Malaysia to help take down a movie pirating ring.

Colin Wood Staff Writer

Colin has been writing for Government Technology since 2010. He lives in Seattle with his wife and their spastic dog. He's obsessed with pizza and bread. Bill Watterson is his hero. He's learning to play chess. He thrives on criticism and wants to hear what you think of his reporting: cwood@govtech.com.